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Hilltoppers Falter Late, Drop 78-69 Road Decision at FAU

(Southern Miss Athletics (custom credit))
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 11:05 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU Hilltopper Basketball faltered down the stretch at Florida Atlantic on Thursday night, suffering a 78-69 road loss.

The Hilltoppers (10-8, 2-3 Conference USA) led 57-52 with 7:18 to play, but the Owls answered with a massive 18-4 run to go up 70-61 with 3:37 left.

WKU cut it to one with 2:08 to play and had the ball with a chance to take the lead, but Florida Atlantic (10-8, 3-2) scored the final eight points to pull away.

“Anytime you go on the road, it’s never easy,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “That margin for winning and losing is zero. Give them some credit, they made some plays. … We got scored on in the paint tonight. More so than anybody other than Kentucky… Again, we left the door open for them and they made some 3s, probably five or six of them in the last five minutes of that game. In the first half they only made three, in the second half they make eight.”

Sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight scored 22 points and added nine rebounds and four assists to lead the Hilltoppers. Graduate senior guard Camron Justice added 18 points and five assists.

Five FAU players reached double figures, while the Owls made 11 of 30 3-pointers, outscored WKU 40-24 in the paint and won second-chance points 16-1.

“They moved the ball well,” Justice said. “They made some shots, made the shots they needed to. Ultimately, they got every loose ball that they needed to. They probably killed us on 50-50 balls tonight and that was really the turning point in the game.”

The Hilltoppers led 36-33 at the break and controlled most of the second half, with Justice’s basket making it a 57-52 WKU lead with 7:18 remaining.

After a FAU free throw, the Owls got back-to-back 3s Michael Forrest and Alijah Martin to go back in front. That was the start of the 18-4 burst that eventually made it 70-61 with 3:37 left.

Five straight McKnight free throws and a 3-pointer by fifth-year senior guard Josh Anderson cut it to one, but the Tops couldn’t convert on the offensive end after a stop, and a goaltending call started an 8-0 run for the Owls to end the game.

Vladislav Goldin led Florida Atlantic with 14 points.

The Hilltoppers stay on the road in Florida for a trip to FIU at 6 p.m. CT Saturday in Miami. The game will stream on ESPN+.

“We’ve just got to bounce back and pick up the energy next game,” McKnight said. “The little stuff helps so we’ve just got to bounce back and pick up the energy.”

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